Embattled BBC chairman Richard Sharp reportedly helped his close friend land a paid role advising the company on its editorial standards.
According to the Sunday Times, Mr Sharp suggested Caroline Daniel, a public relations manager and former editor of FT Weekend, for a post in the wake of the Martin Bashir scandal.
He was an usher at her wedding to ex-Emmerdale actor Christopher Villiers – with whom he is also closely associated, in 2019, the newspaper reports.
Mr Sharp, who is already under pressure to resign due to the circumstances of his own appointment, is said to have introduced Ms Daniel to the BBC’s senior independent director who gave her the job.
The appointment left others feeling like she had been “handled” into the role, which the newspaper said was bringing in £15,000 a year for around 15 days’ work.
The former Goldman Sachs banker, 67, is said to have approved her election to a second position as the company’s external editorial adviser last June, without publicly explaining her personal ties.
According to the Sunday Times, he has not shied away from discussions about the appointment on the BBC’s nominations committee, which he chairs, nor has he indicated friendship in his declaration of personal interests.
The newspaper reports that Ms Daniel has said the relationship was “fully disclosed to relevant BBC executives at the time” – a report supported by the company – believed to include director general Tim Davie.
“The relationship with Richard Sharp was fully disclosed to the relevant BBC executives at the time, as required by the BBC,” she is quoted as saying.
Ms Daniel, 51, was appointed to help review editorial standards, which came after a damning report on Bashir’s Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1995.
Non-executive directors Sir Robbie Gibb and Ian Hargreaves, among others, supported the review, led by the BBC’s senior independent director, Sir Nicholas Serota.
A source close to the Serota reviewer told the newspaper: “Other people were uncomfortable about their relationship – they felt like she was being dragged into the review. However, it was helpful to have their perspective.”
The BBC has created two ‘editorial advisor’ posts for external experts to offer guidance on journalistic standards as a result of the review.
The report will put further pressure on Mr Sharp, who has been embroiled in a cousins dispute for helping former Prime Minister Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility in recent months.
The circumstances of his appointment, already controversial after donations to the Conservative Party, are being initiated.
He has come under renewed scrutiny when his position was questioned amid backlash over the BBC’s decision to take sports presenter Gary Lineker off the air for a tweet comparing language used to introduce a new asylum seekers policy of government with which Germany was used in the 1930s.
MPs have already criticized him for actions that “represent a breach of the standards expected of individuals” running for prominent public appointments, noting that he committed “significant errors of judgment” in a cross-party report last month.
The leader can only be removed from his post by the government – not the BBC – and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has repeatedly refused to defend Mr Sharp, citing the ongoing investigation.
The BBC said it was “completely satisfied” that its processes had been fully complied with.
A BBC spokesman said: “Following the completion of the Serota review on editorial process, governance and culture in October 2021 – and in line with the recommendations in the review – the BBC has appointed two independent, external editorial experts to review the BBC Board’s editorial guidelines to advise and standards committee.
“These positions were formally advertised externally and were open to anyone to apply. The appointment process was overseen by the Nominations Committee, in accordance with BBC Rules, and appointments were approved by the full BBC Board.
“This process clearly established the independence expectations required for the role and included full disclosure of all relevant conflicts of interest. We are completely satisfied that all processes and procedures have been fully complied with.”
Mr. Sharp has been contacted for comment.